Is Vox Reliable?

By · Jun 19, 2023 · 8 min read

Is Vox Reliable?

In an ever-changing media landscape where information never ceases to flow, conscientious consumers face the difficult task of determining how reliable each news source is. Vox has become a prominent player in the field of digital journalism and is known for its in-depth progressive news analysis and commentary on a wide range of topics designed to appeal to its majority left-leaning audience. 

vox readership stats
Source: Pew Research

As with any media organization, Vox is not immune to criticism or scrutiny regarding its journalistic practices and ideological leanings. Thus, it becomes imperative to delve into the question of whether or not Vox is reliable. 

In this article, we aim to provide an objective evaluation of Vox’s reliability, considering factors such as its accuracy and use of credible sources, which contribute to the organization’s overall trustworthiness. By shedding light on these crucial aspects, we hope to empower readers in making informed judgments about Vox and its role in shaping public discourse in the digital age.

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. If we consider this definition, it quickly becomes clear why reliability is important in media sources. If we can’t trust the things we read then there isn’t much of a point in continuing to consume content from that source, after all. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source anyways?

There are several potential measures of reliability to look out for when trying to determine whether a media source is reliable or not. Red flags for an unreliable article can include the presence of wild unsubstantiated claims, facts dependent on other unreliable sources, heavy use of opinionated language, and more. Some indicators of a reliable news source, on the other hand, include things like:

  • Absence of subjective/opinionated language in articles
  • Credible sources cited (e.g., neutral sources, .gov, .edu websites)
  • Facts and statistics backed by multiple relevant outside sources
  • Use of primary sources when possible (e.g., interviews, quotes)
  • Information that remains consistent across news sources

How Does Vox Fare In Its Reliability?

Biasly has designed its political bias indicator to measure news media reliability and accuracy in addition to bias. Analysts have rated Vox using this indicator and determined that the organization is approximately 83% reliable, suggesting that readers can trust the media outlet most of the time. Comparatively, Buzzfeed, one of Vox’s direct competitors, received an 84% reliability rating. We can attribute these scores partially to Vox’s opinionated language mitigated by its strong explanatory journalism, which necessitates strong supporting evidence, including links to high-quality sources. It is important to note, however, that this score is an average, so some articles may be more or less accurate and reliable. Our findings are similar to those of MBFC, which determined Vox to be “High for factual reporting due to proper sourcing and a clean fact-check record.” 

In the sections to follow, we’ll talk about what goes into these scores and what you should be aware of as you seek out reliable, accurate news.

Vox Accuracy and Reliability

Political affiliation plays a major role in the reliability of a media organization’s reliability. Like other outlets, Vox has a reputation for prioritizing the progressive agenda ahead of facts. In order to determine whether this is true, we can evaluate some of Vox’s recent publications and see how well they back up their claims with facts and sources. As we evaluate the accuracy and factuality of their articles, we’ll be looking for selection and omission bias. 

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative in support of the new sources’ ideology. Omission bias, on the other hand, is when different opinions and political views regarding a situation are left out so that the reader is only exposed to the ideological perspective supported by the author. It’s important to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

Biasly rates accuracy on a percentage scale of 1-100, with 1 being the least accurate and 100 the most accurate. Ratings are determined by measuring claims with factually-backed reasoning, credible sources, and the number of credible external sources used within an article. Biasly’s website has an entire page that provides reliability and accuracy ratings for recently published WSJ articles. As we mentioned, Vox is 83% accurate on average in terms of reliability, based on the articles analysts have rated. However, this score is different for every article, with the more drastic fluctuations in reliability usually resulting from bias — particularly omission and selection bias, which means news articles demonstrating political bias score lower in reliability than neutral articles. 

Take, for instance, an article entitled “What is the price of separated immigrant families’ trauma?” This piece provides information about the issue of separated immigrant families and the potential compensation they might receive. It includes statements from advocates, government officials, and examples of the trauma experienced by separated families. In terms of factuality, there is plenty of room for improvement; for example, while it may be true that “Family separation carries long-term psychological and health impacts that might not manifest until years later, or worsen over time,” as the article states, this statement is not backed up with any kind of citation or credible source. Likewise, the article cites an unnamed government watchdog to claim that “immigrant children who entered government custody in 2018 frequently experienced ‘intense trauma’ and that trauma was even more acute for those who were ‘unexpectedly separated from a parent.’” This information would be much more impactful if it had the backing of a trusted authority, expert, or a credible source.

In terms of selection and omission bias, the article doesn’t include any mention of support for Biden’s policies from other Democrats. This indicates the author may be trying to separate the perceived failures of Biden’s policies from the rest of the Democratic party. The article also includes over 15 links to outside articles that make claims similar to the ones made in the piece. The sources are largely other liberal media companies, including many other articles from Vox. The facts presented, such as the number of families separated and the potential health consequences of family separation, are not verifiable without additional sources. 

The article seems to lack balance, as it primarily focuses on the perspective of advocates arguing for compensation for separated families. It mentions Republicans and their objections to the potential settlement, including a letter from Republican senators and ridicule from Senator Ted Cruz. However, it does not provide extensive quotes or viewpoints from conservative sources to offer a fully balanced perspective on the issue. The majority of the article supports the idea that separated families should be compensated for the trauma they faced.

We will provide more examples in the sections to follow that speak further to Vox’s reliability. 

Analysis of Reliability in Vox Online Articles 

Let’s look at another Vox article from November 2021: “What Glenn Youngkin’s Virginia win means for Democrats.” To recap, we mentioned that unreliable articles are characterized by unreliable sources, unbacked claims, a lack of primary sources, and some opinionated language. In this article, the author does an excellent job of sticking to the facts and making only verifiable claims. For example, he cites historical trends to explain that the opposing party of the incumbent U.S. president tends to gain governors and congressional seats midway through his term. There were two somewhat questionable claims made, however, including the following:

“It’s a mistake to read too closely the results of any one governor’s race; these races are affected by national partisan trends but aren’t as closely linked to them as presidential and congressional races.”

While it is generally accurate, governor’s races can also be influenced by unique local factors and issues. Unlike presidential and congressional races, which receive significant national attention and involve broader political dynamics, governor’s races tend to focus more on state-specific concerns such as education, healthcare, and the economy. It’s also worth noting on the author’s part that the degree to which national partisan trends impact governor’s races can vary. In some cases, a governor’s race may be heavily influenced by national political dynamics, especially in high-profile races where prominent national figures are involved or where the political climate is particularly polarized. Additionally, the success or failure of a governor’s administration, especially if they belong to the same party as the incumbent president, can have an impact on voter perceptions and outcomes. So while the statement is generally accurate, it’s important to recognize that there can be varying degrees of linkage between governor’s races and national partisan trends depending on the specific circumstances of each election.

The following claim is also difficult to verify:

“Second, there’s Youngkin’s success in separating himself from Trump while keeping Trump’s base engaged. There have been questions about whether Trump’s coalition would stay home with the former president not on the ballot. But they came out for Youngkin — or, if you prefer, against Democrats — as Republicans’ turnout and margins in rural areas improved. Youngkin also made significant gains in the suburbs, suggesting that well-off college-educated voters who turned against the party of Trump in 2020 were now ready to vote for Republicans again.”

Not only are there no citations present in this paragraph, but it also assumes that voter turnout in rural areas improved because Glenn Youngkin was the candidate instead of Trump rather than the plethora of other factors that could have impacted voter turnout for this gubernatorial election. Perhaps, in this case, Youngkin’s concern for parents’ rights in education was a more local issue that brought out more voters because the issue was closer to home. 

With regard to citations, the article includes over 17 links to sources, which include polls. However, there is a great imbalance in terms of the political affiliation of each outlet, with most of the sources being left-leaning — Brookings, the Washington Post, Politico, etc. — and only one being right-leaning — Fox News

All in all, however, this article is quite reliable and does an excellent job of citing mostly facts, diversifying sources, and invoking speculation only when based on evidence that supports it. Likewise, it doesn’t appear that the author has omitted any facts relevant to the topic. Other articles covering the gubernatorial elections in Virginia present a similar array of facts. 

Analysis of Reliability in Vox Opinion Pieces

Vox also has an opinion section called “The Big Idea” for “Outside contributors’ opinions and analysis of the most important issues in politics, science, and culture” to complement its analysis and deep-dive journalism. Opinion content is an avenue designed for personal viewpoints that allow a writer to persuade readers about various issues. These articles are meant to be subjective and are less reliable in nature but are worth reading nonetheless for understanding other viewpoints on the political spectrum.  

Vox’s opinion section is known to have had some recent reliability issues in its tendency to attack right-wing individuals and policies. One example is featured on The Big Idea’s page: “The biggest problem with Ron DeSantis’s announcement wasn’t Twitter.” It claims that, as a 2024 presidential candidate, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is “obsessed with all the wrong things” and is infected with “brain worms.” Not only is this a highly subjective and improvable statement, but the author uses false claims to back up his opinion, saying that DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law restricts education on LGBTQ topics in primary schools. While DeSantis did sign a bill in 2021 that requires parental consent for students to participate in any instruction on sexuality, the law does not explicitly ban education on LGBTQ topics or restrict it in primary schools — nor does it prohibit the use of the word “gay.” 

The author also determined that DeSantis’s concern with ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) is misplaced, not because it isn’t relevant but because he found a poll that shows many Americans aren’t familiar with ESG or what it entails. He seems to conflate ignorance with apathy, which is misleading and does not invalidate DeSantis’s concerns on the topic. The author goes on to criticize DeSantis for not explaining ESG to listeners of his Twitter announcement without taking into account that those who support DeSantis likely already know what ESG is because it is a common talking point for him. The author could have made a valid point if he had provided evidence that concerns about ESG were unfounded, but he failed to do so. 

In terms of citations, the author included plenty of left-leaning links to CNN, the New York Times, Bulwark, NPR, and Vox’s own website, but it provided no balance with conservative news sites or opinions that could explain why DeSantis thinks or feels the way he does about the issues presented. Overall, this is a very one-sided article that makes many far-reaching claims it fails to back up with evidence from credible sources. This one-sidedness underlines why it’s essential to read all news through a critical lens and seek varying perspectives to form a well-rounded understanding of a topic or issue.

So Is Vox Reliable?

It is essential to acknowledge that no media source is entirely immune to occasional lapses in reliability or criticism. Vox, like any other prominent news outlet, has faced its fair share of scrutiny regarding certain aspects of its reporting. While no media organization is perfect, Vox has demonstrated a dedication to transparency, accountability, and intellectual rigor that sets it apart. By critically engaging with Vox’s content and supplementing it with diverse perspectives, readers can navigate the complexities of the media landscape, form their own judgments, and participate actively in shaping the public discourse of our time. Use Biasly’s News Bias Checker to uncover reliability issues along the way and identify the most accurate and trustworthy news. 

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